Three years ago I joined thousands of others at the Climate March in Washington DC. Our small group of Franciscans joined other groups. We had overnighted at Silver Spring, Maryland and rode the metro to near the Smithsonian Institute. Then we made our way to St. Dominic Church which is near the mall. We gathered with other Franciscan Friars from Holy Name Province and then had Mass. Then we gathered in front of the church with others who like us would join the thousands of marchers who had come from all over the country.
It was a great day of solidarity. I remember getting interviewed by a Catholic radio station. It was a very warm day. I remember perspiring profusely and being spiritually and emotionally drained at the end of our march. I remember joining a group of Houghton College students who were part of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action at the end of the march to rest on the ellipse.
We never imagined then that less than three years later we’d be quarantined and locked down in a global pandemic perhaps caused and certainly exacerbated by climate change.
Tonight as we were eating dinner my wife shared of when she was a little girl who grew up in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She said she often wondered if someday she’d come home and someone would have started a nuclear war. I grew up in those times too. We had civil defense drills in school. We’d be instructed to hide under our desks or place our heads next to the corridor wall to protect us from the blast. Families and schools built “fallout shelters” and they were stocked with blankets and other emergency items to ensure we survived the unthinkable aftermath of nuclear war.
That was almost sixty years ago. The threat of nuclear war loomed over all of us who grew up in the post World War II 1950’s and 1960’s. There was the Berlin buildup, Vietnam and the peace movement. Then the roaring 80’s of Reaganomics and a possible clash with the Russians. The threat of nuclear war loomed briefly once again. There were low grade wars in the middle east because of our addiction to oil. Thousands of Americans lost their lives along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s and other residents of the lands we fought on. The all volunteer force allowed most Americans the luxury of not having to be involved. Shared sacrifice was replaced with glib, “thank you for your service.” We could be distant and cold to the needs of the poor, the marginalized and to the planet itself.
There were the prophets who warned us there was a day of reckoning in the future. It was our children and grand-children who would pay the price of our disconnection with the planet and with each other. Politicians told us that we could not afford to disrupt our economy to address the needs of the planet. We ignored violent tornadoes, one hundred year floods that occurred with increasing severity, fires that burned out of control and threatened entire ecosystems.
Now we are in the grip of a pandemic that threatens the existence of our civilization. We are locked down in our homes. Afraid to to touch our neighbors or worse yet breathe on them. Doctors and nurses are dying to save us. We, in the richest country on earth lack adequate medical supplies and infrastructure to save our citizens. The cost in human life is immense. One expert today suggested that 200,000 people in the United States alone will perish. The world wide total will be in the millions. There is no known cure for the virus. Is this the apocalypse? Our vast weapons systems that cost trillions of dollars are powerless to stop the pandemic. Our military is infected and faces a threat they’ve never known. Field hospitals are being setup all over the country and the world to care for those who need them.
Yesterday as I walked in the woods near my home I saw deer who crossed my path. There were some robins too. There were some beautiful flowers along the trail. I wondered if I would be here next year to see them. Will this be my final spring? Will this be our final spring? Be sure to tell the people around you that you love them. Make sure your affairs are in order. There are no guarantees. Make peace with each other and with the planet. Live simply so others can simply live. Pray for each other even for those you don’t like.
A friend who is suffering with a bout of poison ivy shared information about the increased prevalence of poison ivy in our environment and the increased toxicity of the plant. This is brought on by increased levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. The increase in CO2 is directly related to climate change. Be sure to read more about it here from The Druids Garden.
Recently our daughter and our grandson had a bout with hand foot and mouth disease. It’s a viral infection common in young children. Our daughter’s experience was more acute and she was unable eat for a number of days as her mouth and throat were affected. There is a relationship between temperature and humidity which makes hand foot and mouth disease more common.
Yesterday we had the pleasure of spending an afternoon and early evening as guests of our son and his family on the shores of Conesus Lake. There was a lot of algae and ‘seaweed’ in the lake that was churned up by the increased number of boaters. I learned that the increase in boaters is due to the rising lake level on nearby Lake Ontario which has made it difficult for boaters to dock and launch their small craft. These recreational boaters are coming to Conesus because they can launch their boats without difficulty.
Most people think of addiction to alcohol or other narcotics. Most people have never thought of our over reliance on fossil fuels which are exacerbating this climate change as addiction. In the late 19th century a famous American politician gave a speech about mankind being crucified on a cross of gold. I wonder how many consider that we are crucifying mankind on a cross of fossil fuels which is raising the water levels of lakes and oceans. It’s harming our environment and increasing the spread of disease. Meanwhile know nothing and do nothing politicians wring their hands and cry that we cannot harm our economy by taking reasonable action to prevent this debacle. The economy will be a moot point when the world becomes uninhabitable. Even the oligarchs who profit from the addiction will lose their livelihoods and lives.
Ignorance is not bliss. We will follow the dinosaurs into extinction. Earth will survive but we won’t.
I finally ventured out of the house today to clean our driveway. Yesterday I drove twenty miles for a medical appointment. After my return home I stayed inside for over twenty-four hours which is very atypical for me. I like walking and being out in the neighborhood. Overnight our temperature went down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit which is very cold to be sure. When I was a young boy it was not uncommon for temperatures to dip below -30F so I’m no stranger to cold weather. I can remember a time in the 1980’s when it was subzero for an entire week.
Climate change is a difficult subject in the United States. Some confuse climate with weather. Others, like our president assume that subzero cold weather is an indication that ‘global warming’ is a hoax. I read Inconvenient Truth many years ago and I’ve subsequently read other works about climate change and they all point to more extreme weather. You’re probably thinking about the subzero temperatures of yesteryear as an rebuttal for extreme weather.
Here’s where the difference lies. Years ago, we’d have a month or sometimes two or three where the temperature never got above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes if we were lucky we’d have a January thaw late in that month. This week, we’re going from subzero yesterday and today to more normal temperatures tomorrow followed by unseasonably warm temperatures rising in to the high forties and possibly fifty degrees on Monday. Prodigious snowfalls to our north will become water and cause ice packed creeks and rivers to overflow. Roadways and streets will be flooded and then just as quickly as it thawed there will be a return to frigid weather. Therein lies the difference and it’s a weather pattern that has been repeated time and time again in the past number of years. I believe it’s going to get worse and eventually it is going to threaten our existence in many ways that we can only imagine now.
Yesterday I received an email from my brother who lives in Wisconsin with a link to an article and it’s substance was about the subzero polar vortex which is impacting the mid-west and the much of the country this week. The article explained that this phenomenon is being caused because a mass of warm air had recently moved to the arctic and displaced the arctic air to the south. The warm air that arrived in the arctic was 125 degrees above normal if memory serves me correctly.
It’s become popular for the climate change deniers in our country to point to these frigid temperatures and deride those who speak and write of ‘global warming.’ According to these folks the frigid temperatures belie the existence of global warming and climate change. Recently, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez took some heat from the pundits when she proclaimed that the world is going to end in twelve years. While I’m not sure of the exact timing that she proclaimed it is easy to see that our climate is changing rapidly and our weather is becoming more and more severe. We have had so much rain in our area that the ground is saturated. Recently, due to this hyper-saturation and extreme wind one of our neighbors spruce trees was uprooted and toppled into our yard. It will cost several hundred dollars to have it removed and disposed of.
Yesterday, The Intercept proclaimed that the real national emergency is climate change and not border security. I wholeheartedly agree with their premise. Rising sea levels, extreme heat and drought are already wreaking havoc in the United States and around the world. In the meantime the majority of our political leaders deny its existence or cast shade on those of us who see cause for alarm. One has to wonder how much longer we must endure the ravages of this change coupled with the intransigence of our politicians.
I just finished watching this TED talk on sustainability by the CEO of IKEA. It’s great that a business leader sees the imperative of sustainability and one that is actually saying that it makes sense for business.
I’ve been busier than usual working on my leadership practicum and rebuilding computers destroyed by worms and trojans. I’m empathetic for the folks whose units have been destroyed. In at least one case it was older people on a dialup line. They have a Dell with Windows XP Professional and there is no way you can get your Windows updates and antivirus updates on a 56K modem. I made some money which will pay for my classes at St. Bonaventure but I really want to recommend Ubuntu to more people like those folks because if you’re going to be on dialup and you cannot afford a Macintosh or don’t want to then Windows is not a realistic option for you.
I don’t listen to the news everyday and get most of my updates on current events at Huffington or from colleagues on Twitter and Facebook, but the news from Washington, Baltimore and Dallas is snow storms. I live in what used to be called the “snow belt.” We live about 50 nautical miles from Lake Erie and we usually get large amounts of snow. I’ve noticed too in the last twenty plus years that we no longer get the bone numbing cold we got when I was younger. We used to get -20 and -30 degrees fahrenheit in the winter months and that doesn’t happen anymore. We also don’t get the huge snowfalls we used to. Right now there is more snow in the Baltimore-Washington area than there is in my backyard. I read “Inconvenient Truth” about four or five years ago. A Franciscan friar recommended it to me and since he usually is a reasonable voice I read it and what Al Gore described in the book is the type of weather we’ve been experiencing in the past few years. In the summer our rainstorms have been more violent and in the winter, well, we don’t get as cold nor do we get as much snow. It may be an inconvenient truth for politicians who are owned lock stock and barrel by oil companies to admit that there is something called global warming and that if something isn’t done about it there won’t be a planet nor consumers left to feed their greed.
I got an email from my daughter yesterday that linked this video which I hope you will watch in its entirety. It is a clarion call for change and a change that I hope to be a part of. Gandhi once said, that we must be the change that we wish to see in the world and I’ve been thinking of both the Mahatma’s words and my own actions. What can I do to help bring about the necessary change to save our planet and protect the interests of the citizens of my own country. We all know that prayer indeed moves mountains. Meditation and prayer may be our best weapons in this fight to change the status quo. I’ve thought of the power of the Promise Keepers movement of ten years ago and the movement of a nation and a world to prayer. Gandhi once said, “whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.” So we must move to end our dependence of carbon based fuels yet do so in a loving way that condemns not the producers nor consumers but points the way to a better life for us and the planet.
Here’s a little video with some disturbing information about the shrinking polar ice cap. We can debate the causes of climate change but there can be no doubt that our climate is changing and with it our life on this earth. The source is a time lapse camera at NASA.